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Discovery discloses Modi Corbett shoot, but no date

Claims had surfaced that the Prime Minister was at Corbett for a 'photo shoot' during the Pulwama carnage of February 14

By Pheroze L. Vincent in New Delhi
  • Published 30.07.19, 4:30 AM
  • Updated 30.07.19, 4:30 AM
  • 2 mins read
A promotional picture shows Prime Minister Modi with adventurer and host Grylls. Picture credit: Discovery Channel

If the tiger got its statistical roar back on Monday, some of its admirers, too, have regained their voice but only partly.

Discovery Channel on Monday confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was filmed in the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand for the survival show Man vs Wild.

There is nothing illegal or wrong in co-starring in a well-intentioned show that promotes environment conservation.

However, if Discovery will not say when the episode was shot, the Indian government will not disclose either the location or the date.

Both factors have a context. Claims had surfaced that the Prime Minister was at Corbett for a “photo shoot” during the Pulwama carnage of February 14, when 40 CRPF personnel were massacred.

The attack had taken place at 3.10pm. Quoting an Uttarakhand official, The Telegraph had reported that Modi was in the park, where he went on a safari and participated in filming from 2.30pm to 4.30pm.

Modi had briefly addressed a rally after that, during which he did not refer to the terror strike, which had fuelled questions whether he had been apprised of the attack. The Opposition Congress had also cited the filming as evidence of “insensitivity”.

On February 21, when the controversy broke, BJP leader and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said Modi was “in Ramnagar for an official programme related to tiger conservation” on the day of the Pulwama attack. The Corbett park is located in Ramnagar but Prasad had neither specifically mentioned the sanctuary nor any TV programme.

On Monday, British survival instructor and reality show host Edward Michael “Bear” Grylls tweeted a promo of the August 12 episode of his Discovery Channel show Man vs Wild, which co-stars Modi. Modi also shared the promo on Twitter.

A media release by Discovery added: “This special episode, which has been shot in the Jim Corbett National Park, will be a frank and freewheeling journey, throws light on wildlife conservation, highlighting issues related to environmental change. The adventurous pair even have to make a raft & cross a jungle river together!”

The release quoted Modi as saying: “For years, I have lived among nature, in the mountains and the forests. These years have a lasting impact on my life. So when I was asked about a special programme focusing on life beyond politics and that too in the midst of nature I was both intrigued and inclined to take part in it. For me, this show presents a great opportunity to showcase to the world India’s rich environmental heritage and stress on the importance of environment conservation and living in harmony with nature.”

Asked when the episode was shot at Corbett Park, Discovery Channel had not responded to this newspaper till Monday night.

The Indian government would not even confirm the shooting took place at Corbett. A government spokesperson said he “cannot confirm where the show has been filmed”.

On February 21, when this newspaper had asked Discovery whether there was a shoot of the Prime Minister on February 14 at the park, an executive had said: “We have no information at all.”

The following day, after a series of repeated unanswered calls and messages, a senior official of Discovery had said: “I can’t tell you anything. Please understand. Give me time. I will get back to you.” He could not specify when the response would come.

On July 29, five months after the question was asked and two months after the general election results were announced, Discovery said an episode was shot in the park. The information on when it took place is still awaited.